Songkran, Wats, and Dancing Shrimp in Phayao

Songkran, Wats, and Dancing Shrimp in Phayao

The date I left India was no accident – I wanted to be back in Thailand for Songkran. Songkran is Thai New Year’s Day from April 13 -15. Traditionally people throw water to cleanse away the old and welcome the new. People also visit Buddhist temples, and their families. Throughout the country Songkran becomes an at least 3-day long water throwing festival, and it is difficult to go anywhere without getting wet. Chiang Mai is the center of the biggest Songkran celebration and I’ve enjoyed the past two years of the festival in the city where I live. This year it was time to try somewhere new – Phayao.

I arrived back from India on the night of April 11th, and the next morning was on a bus headed to Phayao. My friend and colleague Mark had reserved me a bus ticket, and in my travel weary state, I took the journey to Phayao to meet him and his girlfriend there. When I arrived, it was already a raging water party.

Taking photos is a tricky thing to do during Songkran because everything gets wet. Bangkok Airways even handed out plastic protection purses to keep valuables from getting soaked. All of these Songkran photos and video were taken through that very plastic purse, please forgive blurriness.

Armed and ready for Songkran in Phayao

Bucket in hand and ready for Songkran

Riding in the back of a truck/swimming pool

Riding in the back of a truck/swimming pool

In front of the lake in Phayao

In front of the lake in Phayao

 

Splashing water everywhere

Splashing water everywhere

Armed for fun

Armed for fun

Mark showing the colored chalk paste that is also put on people's faces. This doesn't happen in Chiang Mai.  Apparently the chalk has roots from the monks blessings. I thought it was from Holi festival in India.

Mark showing the colored chalk paste that is also put on people’s faces. This doesn’t happen in Chiang Mai, so I was kind of surprised. Apparently the chalk has roots from the monks blessings. I thought it was from Holi festival in India.

I took this video as an attempt to show the huge amounts of water. While walking through the crowd, I couldn’t see what I was filming. Water was continually being thrown at me and paste was being put on my face…

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After all the splashing, we enjoyed snacks by the lake at sunset

Mark came back to the table and said to the group of us, “I ordered something that I love, but Elizabeth will hate.” It was dancing shrimp. I’d heard of these before, but never seen or eaten them. They are small shrimp that are still alive, but are then ‘cooked’ in the spicy sauce put on them. Here’s what they looked like:

Pretty afraid to try dancing shrimp

Pretty afraid to try dancing shrimp…

I surprised everyone, including myself, when I tried one. I couldn’t handle eating it while it was still moving, so I waited until they stopped. It was actually really tasty. I had a few more with some sticky rice.

...but I tried them anyway

…but I tried them anyway. They were much better than my pre-tasting face shows

We decided to go when it started getting a little buggy

We decided to go when it started getting a little buggy

At Cupcake coffee shop

Next morning at Cupcake Coffee shop – a dog shaped cake? Why not!

I got my camera back to the guesthouse before all the splashing took place

I got my camera back to the guesthouse before all the splashing took place and left it there for the day. Thankfully Mark had his camera and gave me some of the following shots of the day.

More funny food - Period

More funny food – Period

These were some of the first Songkran revelers we met

These were some of the first Songkran revelers we met that day

...the nicest biker gang you'll ever meet - Grandiose

…the nicest biker gang you’ll ever meet – Grandiose

I wanted to join them

I wanted to join them

After spending the day getting soaked, I retreated to the rooftop patio.

After spending the day getting soaked, I retreated to the rooftop patio.

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Songkran is fun, but after 2 days of constantly being soaked, we took a trip to some temples

Songkran is fun, but after 2 days of constantly being soaked, on the third day we took a trip to some temples to make merit

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I rode on the back of Mark's motorbike and we still got splashed a lot, but the trip was worth it to end up at Wat Analayo

I rode on the back of Mark’s motorbike and we got splashed a lot, but the trip was worth it to end up at Wat Analayo – what a stunning wat in the forest on a hill

Putting coins on the year of one's birth animal

Putting coins on the year of one’s birth animal

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Scaffolding Buddha

Scaffolding Buddha with protective nagas

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That was one huge Buddha

A huge Buddha

A hazy view from atop Wat Analayo out toward the lake in Phayao

A hazy view from atop Wat Analayo out toward the lake in Phayao

Nagas were a theme of the day...

Nagas were a theme of the day…

 

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…then we saw a snake in a tree.

We ended the day at a waterfall.

Boombin looking lovely at the waterfall

Phayao, I will be back. Thanks for your wonderful wats and Songkran splashes. So happy to be back in Thailand!

 

 

 

 

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Pictures that Captured 2013

Pictures that Captured 2013

2013 was a busy, fun-filled year. So many things were happening all the time that I didn’t blog very much at all. Here is a photo overview highlighting some memorable moments of 2013. It’s really a summary of what could have been about 20 blog posts organized chronologically for the year. Enjoy!

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into...

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into…

...this house.

…this house in the city.

My new backyard...

My new backyard…

kitchen

kitchen

and upstairs outside patio.

and upstairs outside patio

Moving into the city exchanged quiet solitude for active social life and lots more people visiting me at my home.

Visitors of all ages

Visitors of all ages

Seeking some of the quiet beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Seeking some of the tranquil beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

The weekend of 3 friend's birthdays started with Kate's 40th at The Four Seasons ooh laa laa

The weekend of 3 friend’s birthdays started with Kate’s 40th at The Four Seasons in Mae Rim. Ooh laa laa!

The celebrations continued with Rose's birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose...

The celebrations continued with Rose’s birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose Yoga Studio…

...and finished with Anthony's 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

…and finished with Anthony’s 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

Still teaching outside the city in nature at Panyaden School all day Monday – Friday, living in the city has helped balance out my former semi-reclusive life with a lot more time with friends.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe's backyard.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe’s backyard.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax by myself.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai gets too smoky and hot. This was one group of projects - making their own vehicle.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai got too smoky and hot. This was one group student of projects – making their own vehicles.

Friends of Panyaden (our school's PTA with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the 'sticky waterfalls'.

Friends of Panyaden (our school’s PTA, with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the ‘sticky waterfall’.

'The sticky waterfall' is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn't allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Pretty cool indeed.

‘The sticky waterfall’ is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn’t allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Very cool indeed.

Birthday flowers

An array of purple hues: birthday flowers, pretty lights, and lanna weaving.

Christophe and I went to Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

Christophe and I took a holiday in Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

To escape the smoke in the end of March, it was time to head south.

To escape the smoke of Northern Thailand in the end of March, it was time to head south.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Our bamboo beach hut

Our bamboo beach hut

and inside

Inside our bamboo bungalow

colorful crabs

colorful crabs

beautiful beaches

beautiful beaches

perplexing pirate ships

perplexing pirate ships

This is how cashew nuts grow. It's just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they're expensive.

This is how cashew nuts grow. It’s just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they’re expensive.

Caring for an injured hornbill

Caring for an injured hornbill

Thai style ceviche

Thai style ceviche

Cute girls on a swing

Cute girls on a swing

Our canine travel companion

Our canine travel companion

And the nightly beautiful sunset made me want to stay on that special place for a long time. Thai 'summer' school break was coming to an end, and almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to Chiang Mai.

And the nightly beautiful sunsets made me want to stay in that special place for a long time. Thai ‘summer’ school break was coming to an end, and after almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to the Chiang Mai heat of mid-April…

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is  armed and ready.

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is armed and ready.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Here are some of my ceramic pieces, glazed but not fired.

Rekindling an old passion, I took ceramic classes on the weekends. Here are some of my pieces, glazed but not fired.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

High tea with Alana at the Chedi

High tea with Alana at the Chedi. More food than we can eat.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Backyard blooming lotus

Backyard blooming lotus in June

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend's car.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend’s car. Don’t worry, he’ll fix it.

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai.

Wat Jed Yot

Wat Jed Yot

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On those sultry summer days, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

On those sultry summer days in July, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park

Kru Jeab captivating her K2 students at Panyaden.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters off the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

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Lovely Mon Chaem

Lovely Mon Chaem just north of Chiang Mai

One of the coolest insects I've ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

One of the coolest insects I’ve ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange, turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

Planting rice with Kru Neung on Thai Mother's Day, August 5th.

Planting rice with Kru Neung and our students on Thai Mother’s Day, August 5th.

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We will eventually eat this rice at school.

We will eventually eat this rice at school.

The green season is sure is beautiful. View from Panyaden.

The green season sure is lovely. View from Panyaden School.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful we thought we'd attract some more birds by building them houses.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful, we thought we’d attract some more birds by building them houses.

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

Detail of the silver wat

Detail of the silver wat in Chiang Mai.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Pong gets some wine

Pong gets some wine

Good thing I had the bridge the little kid didn't quite make it.

Good thing I had the bridge. The little kid didn’t quite make it.

October outside of Pai

October in the countryside outside of Pai

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Spirit house Samui

Spirit house Samui

Fantastic Thai massage in the most unlikely spot - on the beach in Ko Samui.

Fantastic Thai massage from Pi Niam in an unlikely spot – on the beach in Ko Samui.

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

The lovely new detail to my gate.

The lovely new detail to my gate.

A day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

An October day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Leading my students on a walking meditation.

Leading my students on a walking meditation at Panyaden

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Moths of unusal size at Doi Inthanon National Park.

Moths of unusal size

Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon trip

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Making Krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

In November we made krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Letting my Krathong go.

Letting my krathong go

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river for Loy Krathong

Kenny and I let off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai.

Letting off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai with Kenny.

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these - blog post coming soon).

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these – blog post coming soon).

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn't see him.

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn’t see him.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sara, and Balaram.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sarra, and Balaram.

Amazing insect

Amazing insect

'Iron chef' cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

‘Iron chef’ judges tasting our creations for the cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

Father's Day rice harvest, December 5th.

Father’s Day rice harvest with Kru Jan on December 5th.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Teachers and students raising money for the Philippines.

Teachers and students at Panyaden raising money for the Philippines by singing.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Yoga at Om Waters

Yoga at Om Waters

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat.

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat

Temple dogs

Temple dogs in sweaters

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas.

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao.

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao.

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao. Very chilly December 28th.

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Lots of love and gratitude to everyone who made 2013 such a wonderful year. Happy 2014!

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Soaked and Smile Lines from Songkran

Soaked and Smile Lines from Songkran

Splash! Songkran is here! It’s Thai New Year and one of the funniest holidays I know.  Its origins are of cleansing Buddhas and paying respect to elders and monks. Now it’s more like the whole country is in a huge water fight and the center of it all is Chiang Mai.

Some friends of mine asked if I wanted to ‘play’ Songkran with a bunch of people. They had a truck (a purple truck :)) and would be driving around the moat with us throwing water and getting water thrown on us. There would be some adults and also some children. It sounded like the way to do things. It is the hottest time of year in Thailand and the end of the dry season – let the water throwing begin!

Preparing for Songkran in the back of the purple truck before we left

You can see us throwing water, but might not be able to tell there are not only several bins filled with water, but also a baby pool filled with water in the back.

Buckets, squirt guns of various sizes, and lots of water comprised our artillery. Our water had delicately scented flowers to keep with the cleansing tradition, despite the water guns.

We were prepared for the fun as we left and headed to the old city.

This cute little girl in the white dress was an indefatigable water thrower.

Songkran is a holiday for all ages.

I quickly realized that although people of all ages were participating, to my mind the best age to be would be somewhere around 10-12 years old. Luckily, we had some kids representing those ages in the truck. Songrkran is a good time, but it’s a better time when it’s spent with kids.

Best age for Songkran? 10-12.

Regardless of all the sitting in traffic and the water throwing, people were peaceful. My friend commented that in England people would be fighting. I agreed and added the US too. Can you imagine any US city with a big water fight and people not getting angry? I cannot. Here in Chiang Mai the only people I saw getting upset were the foreigners.

Songkran water shooting with smiles. It looks like it’s raining in these pictures. It isn’t. In fact it’s been very dry. All the water shown is from people throwing or squirting it.

Carefully pouring the motorcyclists going by, though not everyone is so careful

3 on a motorbike getting splashed on Songkran

Does it look dangerous? (I mean the water throwing on moving vehicles – 3 young people riding a motorbike without helmets is the norm here). Yes, well, I agree throwing water in the face of a motorcyclist is not a very wise idea. It happens, as do accidents, but the general vibe is one of fun.

As if there was a fire, people banded together to get water out of the moat.

It’s a crazy celebration, but all in good fun or sanuk the Thai word for fun.

The Fahrenheit forecast for the Songkran weekend. It was 88 at 10 am.

After riding around in the back of the truck and getting drenched for hours, even though the forecast was balmy, I actually got cold. I decided to ride inside the truck for a while, which was the only safe place to take pictures. This video shows a 25 second snippet of what was happening outside:

Most of the Songkran festivities fall within 3 days in the middle of April. Besides throwing water, it is also Buddhist cleansing ceremony. I poured jasmine flower infused water over my Buddha images and brought lotus flowers to a wat in Chiang Mai. Supposedly this will bring me luck for the ‘new year’. {FYI – the current year in Thailand is 2555, which began on January 1. The Buddha was born 543 before Christ, hence the calculation. I can write 2012 or 2555 as the date, but when dealing with the Thai government it’s 2555.}

Classic water throwing of Songkran

throwing moat water – keep your mouth closed

My friend Alana and I thoroughly soaked on the third day of Songkran.

…and Alana getting splashed with ice cold water

It’s good fun, but by the end of the third day, I was ready to be dry again. Overall, I laughed so hard, I’m sure I added more smile lines to my face.

สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์ – sook san wan Songkran – Happy Songkran!